Ancient Polyphony from the Republic of Georgia
Electric Cowbell Records
Traditional and sacred music from the Republic of Georgia carries with it a rich history of wine making, migration and exile, as well as, its connection to the Russian Orthodox Church. The songs possess complex polyphonic harmonies that similar to the polyphonic vocal music from Sardinia (Italy) and Corsica (France), blow people’s minds or at least cause its listeners to experience deep emotions while listening to these songs. The arrangements on Zadeshe’s Intangible Pearls feature mixed-gender voices singing traditional work, friendship, religious, feasting, wine making, and battle songs.
However, the musicians treat their listeners to choral a cappella songs as well as, providing instrumental accompaniment on the traditional lutes, harp, drum and accordion. And while those instruments add a certain charm to the songs, the intricate vocals grab my attention. For instance, the choral piece Elesa has several melodic lines crashing into each other, supported by male drone vocals. Si Vardisi (Track 2) features a trio of women vocalist and again, the word charming comes to mind. The feasting song, Maqruli features a baritone singing over a stringed instrument. Alilo features several men vocalists engaging in stunning polyphony. Certainly, a listener is treated to a variety of folkloric and sacred songs of the Georgian people with 25 tracks in all.
I regret that I haven’t had the time this week to give this recording the thorough listen that it deserves or that I don’t have the free time I had in the past, to engage in research on Georgian traditional music. I have come across it several times over the years--when I researched Corsican polyphony and also choral music of Eastern Europe. The women’s vocal ensemble Kitka (San Francisco) performs songs from the Republic of Georgia in its repertoire. Having said that, I believe anyone who enjoys rich vocal traditions would adore Intangible Pearls. In fact, I highly recommend the CD to sophisticated listeners from any genre--not just world and folkloric. Treat your ears to the truly exotic.